May the 4th be with you: How Skywalker Sound is powered by Apple



On Star Wars day, Apple has published a blog post that details how Skywalker Sound, a sound design, editing, mixing and audio post-production division of Lucasfilm, is powered by over 130 Mac Pro racks, 40 iMacs, 50 MacBook Pros, and 50 Mac mini computers running Pro Tools. Artists at the studio create some of the world’s most recognisable sounds that are used in franchises like Star Wars and Indiana Jones.

Skywalker Sound operates out of a 153,000-square-foot red-bricked building surrounded by vineyard and the man-made Lake Ewok in Skywalker Ranch, which itself is in Nicasio, California. The company has a sound library called Soundminer, which has over 700,000 recordings that can be searched using descriptive keywords.

“All the experience I had on the Mac immediately gave me training for what came along in cutting digital sound. I started cutting using a Mac with Final Cut in the late ‘90s, and now have four Mac computers. Each handles a different process: one for picture editing, sound editing, manuscript writing, I’m completely surrounded. They’re labelled Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta,” said Ben Burrt, sound designer for the Star Wars franchise in a press statement.

Many of the recordings used in the Star Wars franchise are recorded in nature. Supervising sound editor stressed the handinesss of having a MacBook Pro on-site while recording in a press statement, “We can bring the Pro Tools session with us in the field and watch and record and quickly put it together, to test whether it works or not,” she says. “If you bring all the recordings back to the studio, you don’t know if you’ve missed the moment.”

Burrt has some good advice foer aspiring filmmakers and sound designers: he recommends that they listen to the world around them, create recordings, and classify them because according to him, any time someone builds a library of sound, they are exercising their creative choice. He also recommends the use of inexpensive applications that can help them cut and mix sound at home.

Supervising sound editor and sound designer Al Nelson says that even iPhone recordings are ‘perfectly usable’ in a creative context. He recommends that filmmakers think about sound early on, because according to him, it is one of the most efficient storytelling tools once you get into shooting and cutting.

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